Since November 2004, we have been tracking the strength of Democratic contenders for the presidency in 2008 through a simple but effective measure: the number of bumper stickers, campaign buttons, posters and t-shirts that we sell in support for each of those Democrats. Instead of the weak and changeable indicator of an opinion given over the telephone to a stranger, our own system for tracking candidates measures the kind of support that counts – whether Americans are willing to spend money to show their support for a particular candidate in a public way. That’s commitment — the kind of commitment that turns into donations, and the kind of commitment that turns into votes.
We’ve recently accelerated our reporting schedule, adding quick updates every week to the more detailed updates every month. These weekly posts show trends over the previous six weeks, focusing on the five most popular candidates across that time. Here is this week’s update, covering the period from January 21 to February 27, 2007 for the top 5 sharegetters during that period:
But let’s scale down from the past six weeks to just this past week. How does the race among these five look now?
After a series of peaks in January (and early February, in the case of Barack Obama) as the contenders announced their candidacies, Al Gore’s win in the Academy Awards for Best Documentary gave him a real pop up in our latest weekly results — and gave Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hits to their relative share of sales. Barack Obama’s level of support has dropped down back to the level of a mere mortal, but if we hadn’t known of Obama’s meteoric heights in the middle of February, we’d consider his record to show impressive dominance. Hillary Clinton nearly surpassed Barack Obama in statements of committed public support back in January, but now she’s dipped down beneath a 10% share of presidential support; to the extent that Clinton is still considered a front-runner, it must be for reasons other than galvanized grassroots support. John Edwards and Bill Richardson both creeped up this month, but they still are struggling at below a 10% share.
As our graph shows, weekly shares for the Democratic presidential contenders are volatile. That’s not because of the effect of low numbers of sales — we’re seeing a lot of those every week. Rather, orders for candidates seem to follow events in the news. Does this mean that even the committed level of support represented by purchases of campaign gear is still wobbly? Candidates waiting to have their own surges may be heartened by that thought. Look for another update next week to see how the latest volatility settles out.